Liz Coplen joined the SWOP USA Board of directors this year and was soon voted in as Board Chair, a role she will take up in August 2010 after she attends the International AIDS Conference in Vienna and the Desiree Alliance Conference in Las Vegas (July 25 to 30, 2010). Her deep knowledge of sex worker organizing in the United States and her dedication to the inclusion of sex workers from all backgrounds into our national organizing makes her an excellent candidate to take over the board chair role from Tara who has been chair for the last two years.
When we spoke to Liz she had just ridden her Harley home from the printers where she had collected a new SWOP USA/Desiree Alliance banner to pack in her suitcase for her trip to Vienna this week to attend the International AIDS Conference.
SWOP USA: Liz, can you tell us a bit more about why you joined the board of directors?
Liz C: On a personal level, I joined because I am really passionate about human rights as a whole, more specifically sex worker rights. I am really bothered that sex workers are stigmatized and face violence and oppression. This has to change and I want to be part of that change nationally in the United States. Also I admire the work that people have done so far at SWOP USA. Robyn Few is an inspiration and Tara has brought so many new people into the movement by leading SWOP USA. I want to make sure the work continues.
SWOP USA: Can you tell us more about how you got involved in the International AIDS Conference?
Liz C: This year the International AIDS Conference will be held immediately before US sex workers’ own national conference “Working Sex: Power, Practice, and Politics” that will be held in Las Vegas. So it was extremely challenging for our networks to send an activist. We applied for a booth at the Global Village, the place where grassroots organizations can have a space to network, and we were successful. Desiree Alliance and SWOP USA were in agreement that I should go to Vienna to take care of the booth and ensure that our views will be included. I will be taking a suitcase full of SWOP USA T-shirts, the recent human rights report on sex workers put together by the Best Practices Policy Project, and a report on sex worker and microbicides prepared by Anna Forbes.
SWOP USA: What do you hope to get out of the conference?
Liz C: This is the first time I have ever attended an international conference so everything will be new for me. I will be attending the pre-conference meeting organized by the Network of Sex Work Projects. I hope during that meeting, which is for sex workers and allies only, that I will learn about other sex worker organizations from around the world. I want to see where we can improve, to learn from New Zealand model where sex worki is decriminalized. As an activist I am going to be working closely with our colleagues from Washington DC who will be gathering feedback from sex workers about the best way to include sex worker voices in the 2012 International AIDS Conference which will be held in the District of Columbia.